Introducing 1st year PhD student Siavash Heshmati, international graduate student, Dr Grace Fleming Seed Science Lab

Sia is turning his lifelong curiosity about seeds into a PhD project


Siavash Heshmati, or Sia, arrived last August to study seed science with Dr. Grace Fleming.

Sia studied crop science for his BSc in his hometown Karaj and got his MSc in Tehran. After graduation he worked as a research assistant in Tehran until COVID-19 shut everything down. At that moment, Sia decided to make the most of it, and began to study English more intensely than he ever had: watching and re-watching “Friends” and listening to instructive podcasts for hours each day. And looking toward a PhD in CSS at MSU.

Sia learned of Dr. Fleming from literature references. He received his documentation 90 days after he traveled to Armenia for his visa interview, and he was on his way to the other side of the planet.

Sia recalls seeing his mother sprouting wheat and lentil seeds in a damp towel during the Nowruz ritual.  While studying seed germination at the university, he came across a reference to the seed sprouting ritual he’d seen in his home. When he arrived at MSU, Sia spoke with students who studied crop science here, and “we figured out that we all took the same classes! All developed here,” at MSU the flagship agriculture institution.  “So even though it’s physically very far from my home, I felt very connected,” Sia said

 Sia is collecting preliminary data to begin his PhD project, in which he will examine what happens inside seeds using transcriptomics and genomics in different conditions, including cold temperatures, hydration regimes, hormone treatments and custom coatings—moving from agronomy to the molecular scale.

He  comes to the lab daily to observe changes: Noting differences in seed treatments side-by-side. Some changes can be observed in just a few hours. “Using hydroprime, we have lowered the temperature of germination from 10 degrees C to 4 degrees C.”

Sia enjoys improving language skills as much as lab skills; he recently gave a talk at the Corteva symposium in Indianapolis. “It was a real challenge, but I really appreciate the opportunity.”

During our conversation, Sia told me about this delightful podcast episode, featuring Dr Grace Fleming 

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